A Guyana Revenue Authority official, Drug Enforcement Unit agent Sherwayne De Abreu, was among four men remanded to prison yesterday over the $550M cocaine-in-lumber find at a sawmill located at Lot B Lookout, East Bank Essequibo.
De Abreu of 262 Eighth Street, Section A, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown; motor bike racer, Stephen Vieira of 37 Middle Street, South Cummingsburg, Georgetown; businessman, Tazim Gafoor and his son, Nazim Gafoor, a motor car racer, both of Menzies Street, Windsor Forest, West Coast Demerara, were all arraigned before Magistrate Rochelle Liverpool in the Leonora Magistrate’s Court.
They pleaded not guilty to the charge which alleged that between March 1 and May 12 at Narine Lall’s sawmill, they aided Hakim Mohamed to traffick 84.986 kilogrammes (187 pounds) of cocaine.
The men were represented by Attorneys-at-Law Mark Conway; Latchmie Rahamat; Everton Singh-Lammy and Stanley Moore respectively.
The Attorneys petitioned for bail for their clients.
However, Magistrate Liverpool refused bail and instructed them to return to court on June 12 for disclosure of statements and fixture of a date for commencement of trial.
Kaieteur News understands that the bust was made after CANU officials received a tip off on May 12. When they acted, the boards were being packed onto a truck.
The truck driver and porters were arrested but were subsequently released after it was discovered that the vehicle and its workers were hired to transport the timber.
The drug agency in a release had said that ranks conducted a search at the parapet in front of the premises of Mohamed and searched a truck laden with several pallets of 1×6 dressed lumber boards prepared for export. Several pieces of boards were drilled randomly by the ranks and revealed a whitish substance.
The lumber was packed at a sawmill located at Lookout, East Bank Essequibo, belonging to Narine Lall, to be transported to a wharf in Georgetown and then shipped to the United States of America, CANU stated.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Lall, who is said to be out of the country.
CANU in a statement had said that Vieira was listed on the shipping documents as a representative of the shipper, Lall.
The Attorneys argued that their clients had no possession, control or custody of the narcotics. Attorney Conway said that De Abreu was not present when the narcotics were found. He assured the court that his client is not a flight risk and disclosed that throughout the investigation, De Abreu has been reporting to CANU headquarters.
Attorney Rahamat said that Vieira never fled the country when he became known that he was being implicated in the drug bust. In fact, Rahamat said that her client had been in Jamaica participating in a racing event which was planned months ago. She added that her client booked the next flight home when he heard that he was wanted for questioning. She, too, said that her client is not a flight risk, since he spent 72 hours in custody after which he was released on self-bail.
Vieira was also ordered to lodge his passport, the lawyer disclosed.
According to Rahamat, the document Vieira signed was in relation to a shipment of wood that CANU checked but found no cocaine.
It was revealed that Tazim Gafoor was previously convicted on a charge of causing death by dangerous driving by Attorney Singh-Lammy. The lawyer pointed out that his client suffers from allergies.
Attorney Moore stated that Nazim Gafoor suffers from epileptic seizures, and the lawyer handed over a medical certificate to the court. He added that the defendant is a first-time offender.
But CANU prosecutor Konyo Sandiford opposed bail for the defendants, citing that there is a possibility they might flee, given the fact that the matter can end with a custodial sentence being imposed. Prosecutor Sandiford also pointed out the seriousness of the offence.
In relation to Nazim Gafoor’s medical condition, the prosecutor said that the medication prescribed to treat the ailment can be provided to him.
Prosecutor Sandiford revealed that CANU had been investigating the matter for three months and that surveillance footage forms part of the evidence.
According to CANU, Tazim Gafoor was placed before the court, charged for his role in another cocaine matter. The 43-year-old was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice, last September, following the discovery of over nine kilogrammes of cocaine.
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